Round and About in Old Isleworth

It is a great shame so many proposed celebrations and events will need to be cancelled or postponed. 2020 sees several anniversaries, not least that The Isleworth Society is sixty years young, while WEFA (Woodlands Estate Freeholders’ Association) intends to celebrate its 90th birthday during September with events being planned at the community hall, a central feature of the estate.     


West Middlesex Hospital has in train plans for a series of exciting exhibitions and activities over the period June 2020 to June 2021 to celebrate 100 years since it came into being, albeit it evolved from former workhouses on the site.  The current crisis will undoubtedly inhibit this to a degree but it should be worth keeping an eye open to find out what is going on.  One special date earmarked is Thursday 17th September although exactly what will take place then is still in the planning stage.  For November it is hoped to display an educational stand in the hospital based on their war record archives.   


There is good news for the Mulberry Centre within the hospital complex. It has been awarded Post Code Lottery funding to provide a programme of welfare and benefit advice surgeries. This charitable trust opened in 2001 with a ceremony presided over by Sir Trevor McDonald, best known as a broadcaster and Equalities Commissioner, when he unveiled a Tree of Life metal sculpture by local blacksmith Shelly Thomas. The centre provides, in a non-clinical environment, a walk-in cancer information centre offering counselling, relaxation therapies, information, advice for cancer suffers, friends and family.


This year Isleworth Blue Church of England Primary School is marking its 390th birthday. An exhibition of its history together with pupils’ work was scheduled for Friday 24th April but in current circumstances has been postponed Likewise, the service of celebration and dedication of the new buildings followed by a garden party, will not now take place in June.  It claims to be one of the oldest Church of England schools in the country.  With history as an essential part of the children’s education, pupils are encouraged to respond with sensitivity to ideas and concepts of other times and places.   Although it probably existed before this, the school takes its beginnings from documentary evidence of 1630 when Dame Elizabeth Hill endowed Isleworth with two houses in the town plus a Buckinghamshire estate.  The houses were exchanged for the Town House in which was held what was then a charity school.  Its site according to the Moses Glover map of 1635 was Lower Square by Town Row, approximately where the Old Blue School building now stands, used by the school from 1841 for just under 100 years.  The current premises in North Street were extended recently to accommodate two form entry.


Stopgap Theatre Group continue to perform some interesting, less well known plays at Isleworth Public Hall.  The latest during February was Forget-Me-Not Lane a nostalgic amusing play penned by Peter Nichols probably better known for A Day in the Life of Joe Egg.  There is still no progress to report on that long running saga of the Council wishing the community to take over management of this venue.   Despite the professed ambition to progress the offer from Activebase to do just this, when it comes to officers actually putting forward viable terms the process long ago appears to have fallen into the Too Difficult Box.  Meanwhile Friends of Isleworth Public Hall do their best to keep Fusion Lifestyle, who currently manage the building, up to the mark over day to day issues that arise.  This has resulted recently in resolution in some areas and the Friends now attend the Council’s monthly inspections. However, there is still a long way to go, as there are also some more major issues in need of attention, not least to stem the tide of leaks from the roof of the extension added at the beginning of the millennium.  The fabric of this has come to the end of its life and is in urgent need of renewal.


The controversial proposal to move the bus stop from outside Isleworth Public Hall to accommodate a shared pedestrian/cycle route along South Street’s pavement from the toucan crossing to North Street was reviewed at Brentford & Isleworth Area Forum in February.  By a vote of 8 for and 3 against Councillors agreed this should go ahead, despite the fact that the result of the public consultation on the revised scheme was that 39% of those responding were in favour of the scheme, 54% against it, with 7% listed as don’t know. The route starts at Twickenham, where substantial changes are under discussion for the a 316 London Road roundabout, then it will use some of Twickenham Road into Worple Avenue at the Crane Avenue junction, where alterations to traffic humps are already underway to accommodate cyclists.   From Worple Road it will eventually extend into South Street, Upper Square, and appears to encompass North Street, Manor House Way into Church Street and through Syon Park to Brentford.  The whole project will be carried out in phases. Some tweaks are envisaged for South Street during a further design stage.


Staying with South Street, latest news on the former Taylor’s premises 1-2 The Pavement, South Street is that the occupants will be Green Ending.  They organise and give advice on green funerals, woodland burials and finding eco-friendly caskets or coffins.  Arrangements include minimal vehicle use for those attending green funerals, caskets made of cardboard, willow or banana leaf etc. with natural burials as an alternative to traditional cremation or burial with no headstone but rather tree planting, having a less damaging environmental impact. 


A tree close to the zebra crossing by the Clock Tower War Memorial was severely damaged and has been removed.   It is scheduled to be replaced between November 2020 and April 2021 – watch that space!   Meantime it’s good to see the finger post outside the George Inn has been reinstated pointing the way to the Leisure Centre, Redlees Park and Explorers Club in one direction; the other to the Glossop Memorial and Isleworth Public Hall. At nearby Swann Court the Council put out tenders in February to potential developers with the intention of replacing the garages to the rear by further accommodation.  The block is named after Harold Swann who was for many years until he retired Town Clerk of the former Borough of Heston and Isleworth.


Closer to the riverside area, TIS was advised by concerned residents of Lion Court that their views were being sought on a proposal by Verace Per Passione to install a self-contained container on Isleworth riverside for the preparation and sale of pizzas. This would also possibly include a seating area, with opening hours suggested as 10 a.m. to 10.30 p.m. TIS sought further information and this definitely confirmed initial thoughts that the proposition would fail to enhance or preserve the character of the Isleworth Riverside Conservation Area and be detrimental to the amenity of local residents. TIS sent a suitable response to Bellway, who developed the site and the building’s management company, as did some residents. This resulted in advice from Bellway that the idea would not be progressed.


A considerable improvement has been achieved over tidying up and taming All Saints’ overgrown Churchyard resulting in the Council recommending the site for a Green Flag award.  This involves a five-year Management Plan being compiled, on which TIS was asked to provide some historic background input.  A one-year action plan will accompany this to evidence how the overall plan will be achieved.


Green Flag status is the benchmark national standard for publicly accessible parks and open spaces in the United Kingdom.  To achieve the award judging includes assessing the quality of how welcoming, healthy, safe and secure the site is, as well as showing high standards of maintenance and cleanliness. All Saints Church is planning to provide the usual tea, coffee and exceedingly good cakes there from 3.00-5.00 on the first Sunday of each month from 3rd May to 4th October inclusive. It is hoped not many of these dates will have to be curtailed.


Turning to the Duke of Northumberland River, along the footpath a carved bench has been installed at Twickenham Junction Rough next to the disused buffers.  It features a steam train.   A further bench is due for installation at the Mogden stretch of the path, its theme has not been revealed.


One small but important incomplete aspect on renovation of the Park Road Cemetery vehicle gates was that stone bollards to protect the ornamental pillars needed strengthening to ensure their ability to withstand modern day likely incidents while retaining the original features.   As so often happens this proved more complicated and expensive than originally envisaged.  Thankfully the issues that arose were solved by the Council and the bollards reinstated in January.   The lantern for one pillar, which TIS commissioned, has also been installed through the good offices of Men’s Shed.  While the Council Leader has agreed in principle to find funding to enable restoration work to commence on the pedestrian gate at the cemetery, as yet there is no definitive news on this.   However, on a separate on-going project, it is anticipated that work will be scheduled to start shortly to renovate the two, listed, cast iron milestones in London Road for which TIS secured the funding.


Talking of funding, feelers are out to obtain sufficient to put in additional planting at the landscaped area at Memorial Square, albeit that Hounslow Highways recently undertook some pruning and weeding there.  In addition, it was TIS’s intention to apply for funds under the recently announced Thriving Communities Grant scheme for renovation of the Clock Tower War Memorial.   In the event this was not feasible in view of the onerous conditions which would have seen TIS taking full responsibility as Project Manager with various other implications that could not reasonably be shouldered given that the structure is Council owned property.   Following representations, the Council is having a re-think about this aspect and it is hoped a solution will be worked out to enable TIS to apply for a funding allocation when the next round is made available.


At Silverhall in January a 160 year old cedar fell from the river embankment causing some damage to the children’s play area.   The roots were exposed with no sign of fungal brackets around the tree or its base.  Probable cause for its failure was above average rain fall saturating the ground coupled with higher than usual river levels. To date the sawn-off trunk is still much where it fell and the children’s area fencing has not yet been put to rights. 


Within Redlees a couple of new litter bins have been installed, one was initially put in a rather unusable position but has now been moved. Some tidying up has been carried out and the vineyard is looking in much better shape. The Council has proposed that a community event might take place on Saturday 16th May but given current uncertainties about continuing such activities there is as yet no confirmation on this. Likewise, feedback is awaited on any decision to roll out to other parks the new style noticeboards installed in December at Redlees as a pilot scheme.


It’s good to be able to report that Hounslow Highways have negotiated with the Council to enable increased cleansing resources and that two new response crews have now been assigned.  One initial task was to improve leaf fall removal which had received

somewhat patchy attention. A further impact to improving cleansing is the introduction for the operatives of a new App to assist with monitoring and refining collection schedules according to usage of litter bins.  Fly tipping continues to be one of Hounslow Highways’ biggest problems which has resulted in recruitment of a dedicated new fly tipping enforcement team to take tougher action in those places where this is most prevalent.


To end on an unusual note, if you spot drones in the vicinity of Worton Road this is because high tech start-up Wecorp Technology Company has a base there developing and testing new unmanned aerial systems, mainly for the aerospace and security industries.  The company holds a licence to fly drones and aims to perfect a system to provide on-site assistance via this method within two minutes of a user calling.



Keep Britain Tidy Great British Spring Clean has been rescheduled for 11-27th September. GSK (GlaxoSmithKlyne), the pharmaceutical giant, is moving c1,400 staff from Stockley Park, where research and development was undertaken, to its Great West Road headquarters. Work to install lifts at Syon Lane Station is due for completion September 2020; that at Osterley Station should be completed during July. In March contractors Brown & Kirland started piling/ foundation works preparatory to constructing Bolder Academy; this involves roadwork disruption in Syon and MacFarlane Lanes. LBofH was not successful in its bid to become Borough of Culture, the awards going to Lewisham and Croydon respectively for the years 2021/2023.  Richmond Half Lock bridge re-opened to pedestrians 29th February after a £500,000 refurbishment and redecoration of the external structure using c3,500 litres of paint.  A petition presented to Borough Council requests that benches and park amenity equipment be installed at Farnell Open Space; this will now be discussed at Hounslow Central Area Forum. Action Isleworth Mothers (AIM) a community outreach group recently held its inaugural meeting.  Its primary purpose is to provide a safe, confidential space for mothers of youngsters experiencing youth violence to share experiences and be supported.  Brentford Voice is canvassing opinion on whether, after 46 years, the Brentford Fountain which used to stand proud at Kew Bridge should come home and if so where it should be located.


Isleworth Actors Company is laid to rest

Isleworth Actors Company, the locally acclaimed professional company which had its home in Isleworth Public Hall, has sadly taken the decision to cease activities and close down IACC, the Charity which supported it.   Isleworth Actors was founded in 1998 by Arthur Horwood and Allison Hancock, produced many notable productions, including The Tempest, its first production, St Joan and Wind in the Willows, its last production in 2009. Much has changed since its inception, not least the sad death of Arthur in 2003.  Changing circumstances of other members and above all changes and ongoing uncertainty surrounding the management of the Public Hall had left the Company unable to mount any productions in the last 10 years.  It was felt, therefore that since it was no longer able to fulfil its artistic ambitions, nor the aims of the Charity, both would be better wound up.


The remaining funds held by the Charity have been awarded to Isleworth Community Play, run by Madeleine Casey and Paul Dalton.  This enterprise was chosen because it has similar aims to bring high quality theatrical experience to the community of Isleworth; and has proven its worth in three outstanding events to date – with another on its way.   Isleworth Actors Company would like to thank the Isleworth Society and the people of Isleworth for their support over the years and commend to them the forthcoming productions of Isleworth Community Play. Farewell from Isleworth Actors!


Allison Hancock